This is one of my favorite places in the world: St. Joseph, Michigan, where I grew up. This photo is the end of the north pier where the iconic lighthouse is on Lake Michigan. (And famous because it was featured on a U.S. postage stamp in 1995)
I have many photos of the beach and lighthouse, such as this one I captured on a gorgeous, cool September day.
Visitors to the area love taking photos of the serenity like this particular day. Others prefer to wait for the gorgeous sunsets over the lake. However, there are times when the winds become fierce, and the waves are rolling when a storm comes in from the west.
This has recently been my life: intense waves of unknowns with an undertow that keep me from reaching the shore. I feel as though I’m continually swimming. And I’m tired.
Sometimes, it’s all you can do to hold your head above water.
In the Gospels, there was a time when the disciples were in a storm of their own. They were in their boat on the Sea of Galilee during a storm with high winds and rough waters. In the dark.
The Sea of Galilee is not just a small, tranquil lake for fishing. Although it is only eight miles wide and much smaller than Lake Michigan, it is also below sea level, surrounded by huge hills. As a result, the sea can get sudden and violent storms when an east wind blows over the warm air that covers the sea.
During this storm, where was Jesus? He was still on land, on the mountainside, where he wanted to pray alone. In fact, during the night, Jesus saw the disciples “straining at the oars because the wind was against them.” (Mark 6:48) Yet he did not do anything until “shortly before dawn.” (Matthew 14:25)
Now you may be asking: Why would Jesus remain on the mountainside and not immediately rescue the disciples when he saw they were in need? Did he not care that they were rowing all night?
But the story doesn’t end there. When it was dawn and the boat was three to four miles out and still experiencing the storm, the disciples saw a figure walking on the water. “It’s a ghost!” they cried in fear. They were terrified.
If the storm didn’t scare them half to death, seeing a figure walking on water three miles from shore in the daylight would undoubtedly do the trick.
Jesus immediately replies, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27)
Matthew adds a special little insight for us at this point in the story. Peter, the brash and often compulsive disciple, speaks up. “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus replies, ‘Come.” (verse 28) Peter didn’t wait to hoist himself over the side of the boat down to the water. Walking on water! I can imagine Peter grinning like crazy as he started toward Jesus.
It is as though Peter suddenly remembers that he is out on a big lake in a fierce storm. He begins to sink. “Lord, save me!” Immediately, Jesus reaches for him to keep him from drowning. “You of little faith,” he replied. Why did you doubt?”
Peter is saved. Whew. But it’s not the end. Remember, the storm has not stopped.
Mark 6:51 says: “Then he [Jesus] climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They [the disciples] were completely amazed.”
First, they think they see a ghost. Next, their boatmate decides to risk life and limb to meet Jesus on the water, and then the storm they have been fighting all night is gone. As in *poof*.
What a night.
This isn’t even the first time the disciples have experienced a storm with Jesus! Another time is mentioned earlier in the book of Mark. Again, on the Sea of Galilee, a furious storm came up while Jesus was sleeping in the stern of the boat. The disciples wake him up and say, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Immediately, Jesus rebuked the wind and told the waves to calm. He said to the disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
And now, it appears the disciples needed a reminder of what to do during a crisis. This time without Jesus in the boat.
They may have felt as though Jesus didn’t care they had to endure another storm — until they saw that Jesus was walking out to meet them in the storm.
We are each in a unique storm of our own. Like the disciples fighting a storm all night without knowing when it will end, we can feel that way about our current struggles.
Jesus still sees. He sees us straining at the oars, trying to make it to shore. Does he care what we are going through? Of course. Jesus told the disciples:
“Look at the birds of the air:
they do not sow or reap or store away in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not much more valuable than they?”
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?
Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.
Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Jesus doesn’t want us to struggle alone. He is ready to meet us in the storm we are going through. Just like Peter, Jesus wants us to reach out in faith when we are sinking and ask for help. (James 1:6)
Have you heard the phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”? That is actually wrong. It’s when He is our strength that we become strong! (Isaiah 40:29-31)
Yes, we don’t have to battle our storms alone. We are seen. We have a Hope that is our Salvation. (Psalm 27:1)
Was there a time when Jesus met you during a storm in your life?
Share it in the comments below!
Disclosures: Scripture references are from the New International Version and linked to BibleGateway for the reader’s convenience.